BOSTON — The Yankees could not have asked for a better situation in Game 2 of this American League Division Series, even after dropping a one-run heartbreaker in the opener.
The Red Sox were throwing David Price, a pitcher who a.) is typically awful against the Yankees and b.) is typically awful in October.
That daily double hit in spades for the Yankees on Saturday night. An early power surge from Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez had Price out before the end of the second inning, which — combined with more outstanding playoff work by Masahiro Tanaka and a second home run by Sanchez, who drove in four runs — produced a series-tying 6-2 victory over the Red Sox in front of 39,151 fans at Fenway Park.
“We know our fans are waiting for us to come back home, especially this series tied 1-1 like this and we’ve got two games at home,” Judge said. “There’s nothing like it. It’s electric.”
Game 3 of the best-of-five series will be played Monday night at what is sure to be an ear-splitting Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees are 7-0 in the last two postseasons, outscoring the opposition 42-14 in that span.
Their caliber of play there was very much on the mind of first-year Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who experienced the Stadium last year as Houston’s bench coach.
“It’s very important,” Cora had said, referring to his team’s hopes of taking a 2-0 lead Saturday. “They haven’t lost a playoff game in a while there. The wild-card games. They swept the Astros last year. So it’s a tough place to play. Last year that place was alive, the fan base. From the get-go it was loud.”
Judge quieted a loud Fenway crowd with a 445-foot home run to left-center over the Green Monster in the first inning off Price, who lasted 1 2⁄3 innings. Sanchez lined a bomb to leftfield over the Monster to lead off the second, then added the back-breaker in the seventh, a 479-foot rocket to left-center that left Fenway Park, drove in three runs and made it 6-1.
“All around a really good game,” Brett Gardner said. “I thought Masahiro really did a good job early of setting the tone. And obviously Judge and Gary, it’s a lot of fun when they’re hitting the ball like that. And our bullpen was great, too.”
After Tanaka allowed one run, three hits and a walk with four strikeouts in five innings, Dellin Betances, Zach Britton and Aroldis Chapman combined to allow one run and two hits in the last four.
“We’ll be aggressive when our guys, we feel like, are lined up that we can roll them out,” Aaron Boone said of his deep bullpen.
Price entered the night with miserable numbers against the Yankees, 2-7 with a 7.71 ERA since joining the Red Sox, including 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA this season.
Price, 0-8 with a 5.74 ERA in nine previous postseason starts, retired leadoff man Andrew McCutchen on a grounder to third and got ahead of Judge 1-and-2. He then grooved a cutter that Judge annihilated high atop the centerfield side of the Monster for his seventh career postseason homer and sixth in his last eight postseason games.
Judge, who had two hits, is 7-for-12 with three home runs in this postseason. He became the first Yankee to homer in each of the team’s first three postseason games since Hank Bauer in 1958 (Bauer, of course, did it in the World Series).
Tanaka, 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA in three postseason starts last year, allowed a two-out single by J.D. Martinez in the bottom of the first, but that was all in the 17-pitch inning.
Sanchez led off the second by tattooing a 1-and-1 cutter into the Monster seats in left, with his first homer of this postseason making it 2-0. It made Sanchez 7-for-14 with six home runs against Price and gave the Yankees 11 homers in five games against the lefthander this season.
“A good pitch to hit in the zone, high,” Sanchez said through his translator. “I’ve been fortunate to be patient and find some pitches like that from him, and I’ve been able to hit them well.”
Five innings later, he’d hit one even better.